Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, in an interview with select journalists including Godwin Isenyo, speaks on the proposed religious preaching bill among others.
One of your policies that has generated a lot of controversy is the religious preaching bill. What does the government want to achieve when it becomes law and how are you going to tackle the anxiety that it has generated among the people?
Kaduna State, more than any state in Nigeria, if you take out the Yobe, Borno and Adamawa axis, which suffered from Boko Haram insurgency, has suffered the most from death and destruction of property due to misuse and abuse of religion. More people have been killed in Kaduna from the words that people have said. And if you go back in history to when the Maitasine incident happened; he was a Cameroonian that came to Nigeria and started preaching.
The Emir of Kano had him deported back to Cameroon. After that, he managed to smuggle himself back again and continued preaching. He was preaching a version of Islam that was intolerant, a version that called other Muslims pagans and so on. But in spite of what he was preaching, he acquired followers and we all know what happened.
Military operation had to be mounted to flush them out. Those that escaped from the Maitasine crisis moved to Borno State and started the Kalakato sect, which again led to many deaths and destruction in the early 1990s. All these came from people that were not trained in religious matters, people that woke up and started preaching and acquiring followers and inevitably their sects grew in large numbers to threaten communities and there were clashes.
That was also how Muhammed Yusuf started. He was a student of Sheik Jaafar Adam in Kano. They fell out because Jaafar felt that some of the views he was expressing were extreme and intolerant. He went and started his own sect and we all know what happened and we are still dealing with it.
Thus, when you have such things happening in your country, I think as leaders, we have to sit down and examine ourselves and the society and see what we can do to prevent it.
In my opinion, it is the lack of regulation of religion that led to all these circles of death and destruction. Just recently, we had the Shi’ite problem in Zaria, following a similar pattern.
I believe that before you start preaching in any religion, you should have gone through a system of education, training and some kind of certification. Even those that deal with the physical life get certified, let alone those that deal with the spiritual life. We initiated this bill from the Kaduna State Security Council, based on reports of new sects emerging in Kaduna State.
What is your take on the assumption by some in the state that hold that the bill is aimed at stopping the practice of Christianity and Islam in the state?
I have not seen anyone talking about Islam actually. Most of the people that say I would die, as if I would not die, are people who call themselves Christian clergy. Of course, I will die. If that apostle is truly an apostle, he should mention the day I will die. There is nothing in that law that prevents or infringes the practice of religion. It seeks to ensure that those that preach religion are qualified, trained and certified by their peers to do it. And some sections of the media have made it as if the law was drafted against Christianity. It is most irresponsible and I have nothing to say except to leave the matter to God.